Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters – Tomorrow Is Another Day

Here Ulrich collaborates for a second time with The Engineers‘ guitarist, Mark Peters. Although their first outing, Underrated Silence, was rather a smooth, unchallenging, even unmemorable ride, well within Ulrich’s comfort zone, I found myself sticking it on surprisingly often, coming back to its enveloping, easy-on-the-ear sounds. This second effort is more confident and more of an equal partnership. The tempos vary slightly more widely and the guitar playing takes an increased prominence in the compositions. It is even reminiscent, in parts, of Mike Oldfield‘s Tubular Bells work – in a good way, if you like that sort of thing (and I do).

Midlake – Antiphon

After two classic albums of British-influenced folk rock (2006’s The Trials Of Van Occupanther and 2010’s The Courage Of Others), Midlake had to restart their resume following the departure of their lead singer in 2012. The musical chops are still there and the new singer, drawn from the existing ranks, does a fine job, but I can’t help but feel there’s only half an album’s worth of really diamond material here on Antiphon. It gets off to a great start for the first 4 or 5 tracks but then trails off to a rather unmemorable finish.

Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Another marquee release for 2013, this gave me the idea for the recent Double Albums post. Bringing in a disco influence isn’t wholly original these days (!) but it is a great move for Arcade Fire and suits them down to the ground. There are some lovely songs on here, with solid rhythmic foundations although one or two plodding rockers could have been left out (e.g. Joan of Arc) as they don’t fit the mood effectively. I’m not convinced it works as a double album – if one or two tracks had been cut and the 6 minutes of quiet rewinding chopped off the end of the otherwise excellent slow-building Supersymmetry, it could have made one hell of an epic single-disc. However, plenty here for early thrills and to come back to.

Kiln – Meadow:Watt

Electro-acoustica, or something. A laid-back but incredibly detailed, meticulous sound. Some of this sounds a little too much like their previous album (Dusker – 2007) – so much so for one of the tracks that it had me checking whether it was a remix. However, they do bring some lovely piano melody to the mix of one or two, as well as some more head-nodding beats. Overall a charming, engrossing listen.

Nils Frahm – Spaces

One of the new breed of ‘modern classical’ artists, this is nominally a live album, although there isn’t much crowd noise beyond deliberate snippets of applause. Nils clearly specialises in delicate piano musings but is no one-trick pony – the tracks here that up the tempo or bring electronic sounds into the mix are highly effective. It’s a lovely, varied selection of pieces and a great taster of his style and ability.